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Vasant Raiji, World’s Oldest First-Class Cricketer, Dies at 100

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Vasant Raiji’s career as a first class cricketer started with a debut match for the Cricket Club of India (CCI) team which played Central Provinces and Berar in Nagpur in 1939.
Vasant Raiji with Steve Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar during his 100th birthday

Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Steve Waugh (right) visited Vasant Raiji in January to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Vasant Raiji, India’s oldest first-class cricketer at 100, passed away at his residence in Mumbai on June 13. Raiji is survived by his wife and two daughters.

“He (Raiji) passed away at 2.20 am in his sleep at his residence in Walkeshwar in South Mumbai due to old-age,” his son-in-law Sudarshan Nanavati was quoted by PTI.

Raiji played nine first-class matches in the 1940s, scoring 277 runs with his personal best being 68. His career as a first class cricketer started with his debut match for Bombay's [now Mumbai] Cricket Club of India (CCI) team which played Central Provinces and Berar (the area fall under Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra now) in Nagpur in 1939.

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He debuted for Mumbai in 1941 against Western India under the captaincy of Vijay Merchant. Raiji was a man of many talents. He was also a cricket historian and had a successful career as a chartered accountant. He was just 13 when India played its first Test match at the Bombay Gymkhana in South Mumbai.

“Raiji watched eight decades of Indian cricket and interacted with a plethora of cricketers. Few people would know about cricket as much as he does. But what makes Raiji so special is that he has never indulged in any kind of comparison between two players, ” cricket writer Makarand Waingankar wrote in his book, Bombay Boys.

Raiji wrote eight books that can be described as rare literature on cricket history. At the preface of his book, Story of the Bombay Tournament- From Presidency to Pentangular- 1892-93 to 1945-46, he talks about the various formats of the game and how important they are in development of cricket in the country. He wrote: “No future historian of Indian cricket can ignore the important role played by the Presidency, Triangular, Quadrangular and Pentangular matches in the development of cricket in the country.”

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Makarand also wrote, ‘Raiji and Don Bradman would correspond with each other on contentious cricket issues. A private person like Bradman would be comfortable speaking his mind to Raiji. CK Nayudu was Raiji’s favourite cricketer and he, in fact, wrote a book on the India legend: CK Nayudu, the Shahenshah of Indian Cricket.’

Sachin Tendulkar and former Australian skipper Steve Waugh had paid him a visit on his 100th birthday in January.

The final rites took place at the Chandanwadi Crematorium in South Mumbai.

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